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What Makes a Great Manager?

What makes a great manager? There are many different ways of answering this question but how many would include a reference to happiness? Ours does!

We take the view that a key aspect of being a great manager is an awareness of the happiness and well-being of ourselves, and of the people we manage. In this article we outline the main themes of the Happy Manager site, and how we think they can help to answer the question: “what makes a great manager?”

In our article: Happiness at Work, we suggested a helpful way to think of what it means to be a happy manager. A happy manager is one who manages with “head”, “heart” and “hand”. This is not an idealistic notion but one that is firmly grounded in realism and practicality. We think a happy manager is someone:

  • whose management knowledge is thorough, well-informed and insightful (Head)
  • who has developed appropriate practical management skills, putting ideas into action (Hand)
  • who understands the importance of well-being at work, balancing effective knowledge, skills and action with a focus on happiness (Heart).

What makes a great manager?Although this may seem to be a very different way to look at what it takes to be an effective manager, it really comes from a combination of new thinking and old.

Many of the ideas we discuss are rooted in emerging research from areas such as positive psychology and employee engagement, stressing the importance of happiness and well-being. However, much also comes from well-established management theory, which is often more aligned with the notion of happiness at work than one might think.

We certainly aim to provide fresh insights into existing management theory, encouraging you to think laterally and to appreciate differing perspectives to that theory.

Our view is that perhaps a mechanical, functional view of management and business has come to dominate too much of our thinking. It’s time to step back and look again at finding a better way to manage.

What Makes a Great Manager? Being Happy Because Happiness is Not Just Good for You, it’s Good for Business!

At the heart of being a happy manager is a focus on well-being, so that’s where we start. In “Happy Workplace” pages we outline some of the principles of happiness, both in relation to life and in the workplace.

Starting with an exploration of what causes happiness we ask: can we get any happier or are we stuck with what nature gave us? We find some interesting answers, suggesting that most people can choose to be happier, but why does this matter to a manager? The answer lies in the answer to another question: does being a happy person improve performance in the workplace?

There is evidence to suggest that this is the case. So, if we can choose to be happier, and happiness can improve how successful people are at work, then finding ways to be happy at work becomes an important task for any manager. What makes a great manager? Perhaps it’s the realisation that happiness is not just good for you, it’s good for business!

What makes a great manager?

In thinking about happiness we also consider areas such as stress management and general well-being issues. What makes a great manager? As John Ruskin said in one of our favourite happiness quotes:

“In order that people may be happy in their work, these three things are needed: they must be fit for it; they must not do too much of it; and they must have a sense of success in it.”

Ensuring we develop healthy bodies and minds, and balanced approaches to work and life is critical for everybody. Understanding and dealing with these issues is therefore an essential element of good management.

We also ask how you feel about your work? One key element of happiness at work is being able to do what you love. One of our main goal setting tips offers advice on doing what you love, or on dealing with a job which does not allow that.

Managing: Applying Knowledge and Skills to Create Happy, Productive Workplaces

What makes a great manager? Whilst we think the principles of happiness underpin the answer to that question, it’s difficult for any manager to be great it they don’t have the knowledge and practical skills to manage.

A manager therefore needs to both understand management principles, and to be able to use a range of management skills. From making decisions to solving problems, these skills are essential. Especially with regard to how knowledge and skills can be applied in ways that create happy and productive workplaces.

In our other sections you’ll find a wealth of management resources. If you’re pressed for time, our Manage in a Minute series contains short, helpful, explanations of various management principles. Alternatively read some of the great articles in our management tips section. For example, we suggest one tool that no manager should be without in our article: Best Management Tool Ever: A Good Question. And before asking what makes a great manager, you might like to ask: what makes a good manager?!

Leading: Contributions that Leave a Legacy

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Having developed a foundation of good management, great managers are those who develop their leadership skills. Leadership definitions are a useful way to start although perhaps the real meaning of leadership can be better illustrated through actions.

Therefore one of the most powerful ways to learn about leadership is from examples such as those in our leadership stories. Another clear illustration of the principles underpinning the Happy Manager is in the development and leadership of teams. The management of teams is a critical element in what makes a great manager. Releasing the potential of teams to perform is not easy so managing teamwork in the workplace is a vital skill to be learned and practised.

To address this issue we advocate an approach to team development which blends individual Strengths with Teamwork, which the manager Aligns to produce meaningful Results: the STAR team performance model.

What makes a great manager? Motivating and Re-defining Work

Another important aspect of sound management is to the ability to motivate. Both self-motivation and the ability to motivate others are key elements in what makes a great manager.

What motivates you and your colleagues? What is the relationship between motivation and happiness in what you do? A good place answering what makes a great manager is to explore workplace motivation, asking “how do you define your work?”

In particular we introduce a model for improving motivation at work. This model will help you to analyse performance at work, asking “how do you improve workplace motivation?.” The model offers some ways to determine optimum performance at work, recognizing that effective management is a constant balancing act.

Developing: Loving What you Do, Learning Together and Sharing What you Know

Motivation is also central to how we develop and learn, both as a person and as a manager. Another key feature of the Happy Manager is the constant theme that developing and encouraging others is as important as self-development.

We suggest one model for managers to help with this development process. You and your colleagues can grow from ideas and insights by using our T-Break Model. Thinking, Talking, Trying, and Telling are ways to help each other to learn and grow from shared experience and expertise.

Development and growth also require goals. Begin by recognising that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm, and then perhaps ask yourself some crucial goal setting questions . These will help you to think about the goals you really want to achieve and about those that lead us, and our organisations, to produce value.

What Makes a Great Manager? Producing Value with Contribution and Significance

The Happy Manager also focuses on producing value. From being productive in our use of time, to managing projects effectively. Happiness is often experienced when we produce valuable and meaningful results, when we sense our contribution has been of importance in the pursuit of something significant. Delivering performance is of course central to what makes a great manager, but this isn’t just performance for the short term at the expense of the long term.

A great manager leaves a legacy: healthy, vibrant organiza”Mantions, happy colleagues and customers and a wider community that is better for their stewardship of the talent and resources they manage.That is what you’ll find out more about in our e-guide “Managers Make the Difference”.

It may be relatively easy to summarise what makes a good manager, but what makes a great manager? Perhaps the better question to ask is “what do great managers do differently”?

This thought-provoking e-guide offers you some answers, and some tools to move you from good to great. What do great managers do? They make all the difference!

What makes a great manager a happy manager?

For us, a happy manager places happiness and well being at the heart of managing and leading. Both for managers themselves, and for the people they manage. This focus helps us to motivate and encourage development and growth, to achieve meaningful and valued results, at work and in life.….. and to enjoy doing it!


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